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Hey y’all! I’ve got a great big bag full of scattershot shit to hit you with this time around. Less review and more essay, it would seem. It’s broken down into three acts. A triple decker. A trifecta. Whatever. The first two are bits and pieces that have been stewing around inside my skull for quite a while. The last (and biggest) chunk is a hefty interview with the heavyweights behind the new book, DESTROY ALL MOVIES!!! - The Complete Guide to Punks on Film. This fine tome should be in all the right shops by the time this blathering goes to… um … “press”. But first, there’s a bit of sadness I gotta’ touch on. Bite down hard, and take it like a man. It’ll only sting for a little while.
PART I: HERE’S BLOOD IN YER EYE: CHAS BALUN. 1948-2009As many of you folks know by now, I spent my formative teen years growing up in a Midwest landlock. Living in the 80’s. Overweight, misunderstood and glued to a TV, long before the home stereo ever factored in. Sports did not exist. Uncle Don’s Terror Theater and the Son of Svengoolie did. These silly local horror hosts, along with the glory days of video rental brought me new visions of terror weekly. When I wasn’t staring at the tube, drawing monster cars or sitting alone the dark, I was feeding my brains on whatever horror film magazines I could get my chubby/grubby hands on. Too young to hit the first wave of tween scream periodicals like Famous Monsters or the early hands-on/how-to digest Cinemagic; I sprouted up just in time to find Fangoria fresh and bleeding on the shelves. From this I learned the wonders of the straight up gore flick. Local mom-n-pop video stores may have been my temples for grue blasting creature features and slasher worship, but it wasn’t ‘til I picked up that Fango (sometime around the summer of ’83) that I got taught a little bit of history. And even then, I barely respected it. Inside these issues were the review columns of a certain "Dr. Cyclops". Mostly the Doc went on about old b&w flicks from Universal, Roger Corman produced drive-in schlock and Hammer-style imports. I would briefly glance over them, linger on the box art images for a minute, then move on to the more important stuff…full color pages of dripping entrails and zombie head explosions. Man, how well I remember the cover of issue #25. The first NEW copy I ever picked up. It had the Videodrome television on the front: guts strewn out, dangling like candy from a rotten and smashed piñata. A TV set, so engorged on this bloody organ buffet, it had burst open from the wet girth. Delightful. Dee-lish. This was what mattered. Who cares about that classical-class or the psychological horror? Not the plus-sized, sweat panted youth of America…that was for damn sure. There was a local comic and games shop (called Tomorrow is Yesterday, for those who care) that I’d force my family to drive me to twice a week. Religiously. A ritual I continued to do solo, well into my college years. Here I snagged up the better digests that existed in the fantasy film realm. Stronger stuff than what mall shop booksellers could offer me. Not just magazines proper, but overzealous rants on xerox (or even mimeographs…remember them, grandpappy?) written by psycho-babbling nutbags like myself. Only older. And with better typing skills. Or at the least, with nicer penmanship. Zines enter my picture HERE. Not with music. Not with punk. But with horror and sci-fi fandom. The idea of music rags didn’t rattle my feeble brain ‘til my twenties. No stock pile of Touch N Go, Search and Destroy, or Forced Exposure in my cupboard. No sir. Not yet. It was all film related in the lame “Frankie Says”-era. Most importantly, these new cut-n-paste-ups were studies in the ghastly world of gore. I started to branch out into some classier fare (Midnight Marquee, Demonique) and nerdish lost film worship (Video Watchdog and Psychotronic) as time passed, but these early guts n’ gravy mags always found the soft spot between my ribmeats. And during these fruitful times, one scribe’s pen spoke to me and these vulgar interests more than any other. A big bear of a man, always pictured with disheveled hair and an evil glint in his eye. A man who looked uncannily as rabid as Gunnar "Leatherface" Hansen himself. That man was Charlie “Chas” Balun. He was the demonic bruiser behind such sweetly sick pages as Deep Red and The Horror Holocaust, whose writing expressed such glee (and sometimes full-tilt hatred) for these trashy, often forgotten efforts, that it single-handedly jumpstarted my quest for certain holy grails and gutter flicks. A quest that has not ended, even to this day. There was no Leonard Maltin pussyfootin’ around in Deep Red. Films reviewed had accurately been said to “suck farts out of a dead cat's ass” from time to time. That is a direct quote. Look it up. I, as an impressionable youth, wholeheartedly agreed. Don’t mince words. Deliver the groceries. And his black and red offset printed pages did just that. Delivered these goods...in a bodybag. I still have my well thumbed Gore Score review guide. Battered, thumbed and hi-lighted to the point of being illegible. It’s going nowhere.
He taught me many things: Herschel Gordon Lewis was KING. The Italians could do ANYTHING better, and on even less of a budget. Dr. Butcher MD was a high bar that all must match in trash cinema. (Well, until I Drink Your Blood finally made its bootleg rounds). And so on. Looking back now, I can see we didn’t always gel in agreement. I’m pretty sure he’d rather carve up his own scrotum with broken glass shards than watch any Andy Milligan flick. Shit. Most would. He also burned some bridges with the folks over at Film Threat and the like, selling off unauthorized copies of rare J. Buttgereit films (Nekromantik, Der Todesking, etc.), but it didn’t faze me. I’m no businessman. I’m a fanboy. He wrote novels (Ninth & Hell Street) and screenplays (Chunk Blower) and as time charged on he even put in some hours at the Fango HQ, along with their upstart mags like GoreZone. From what I recall, this did not tame him. He was a frothing zealous creature who stuck out like a sore thumb in the clinically pure Q&A trappings of a national publication. His throw-it-all-in-yer-face style and attitude was so PUNK at the time for horror film reviewing. Or maybe metal. Crossover? Hard to remember these days. Drug out of the 42nd Street sewers and shoved into yer Kroch’s and Brentano’s shopping center mugs, horrifying parents of impressionable kiddies everywhere. Warped me fer good. Chas - along with real punk/film buff extraordinaire, Chris D. - are really the only reason I sit here today blathering about movies, music, etc. Balun was an honest to God hero to me. One of the very few. And sadly, no longer with us.
Just shy of a year by the time you’ll be reading this, Chas finally caved in on his battle with cancer. I was never even aware he was sick. I’ve been out of the loop with these mags and related zines for most of the past decade. I rarely even troll the proper websites ‘cept for when I wanna find out what’s hitting the DVD market. I was casually reading a mid-year issue of the Goth-horror digest Rue Morgue (on the toilet no less…where else?) when I saw his passing mentioned in the editorial. I felt sickly. Like when I found out Ed “Big Daddy” Roth had died. I never met him either, but both were so formative and integral to the genetic make-up of what I am today (not much, but still…). I was heartbroken. Another year has withered away and yet another of my idols had passed. Just like the lame mid-lifer I’m slowly becoming, I cling dearly to my fondest memories. This past that I don’t wanna let go of. I think back to sitting around in high school art rooms photocopying (or cutting up) these magazines for disgusting locker decoration. I think back to standing in the snow, waiting for Pittsburgh metro buses, thumbing through bent issues of Deep Red during my Art Institute years. Reading about the latest Tom Savini f/x blowout or some uncut Japanese laserdisc that offers seconds more splatter to a lost cannibal flick. Hoping to be interviewed by the main Chas-man himself one day. Sorry kid. Ain’t gonna’ happen. Very little effects work for me in these times. And now, worse yet…no Charlie to chat with tomorrow. So I guess this is just me saying goodbye (a year late) to a muse, of sorts. From an unknown friend, fiend, fanatic and follower. To a lesser-scale celebrity whose demise has been grossly overlooked. It’s totally understandable. A lot of genre related greats went down in recent times. Bill Landis of Sleazoid Express for one. Ugh. Ray Dennis Steckler too. Etc… Getting old is tragic and sad and not nearly as gory and violent as most of us gut-busters would have hoped for. I went and dug out the old Deep Red issues and stacked ‘em in the bathroom reading pile. To the left of the commode. Right where they belong. Cinema = Sewer. Just like old times.
PART II: JOIN THE ORDER OF GREEN BLOOD: Mad Ron and his Prevues From Hell“It’s no good, but it’s the first of its kind” – H.G. Lewis on Blood Feast If it was Chas Balun who got me lurking the VHS isles for unknown pleasures, it was this early find that glazed my eyeballs with the shock horror royalty. The elder father of all trailer tapes - Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell. Released in 1987 on an unknown Virgil Films/Off the Wall label, Mad Ron’s tape was (as far as I know) the first legit trailer compilation to make the rounds. No longer were you sitting through credits and color bars of Media tapes waiting for that final spool, just to catch a brief glimpse of Funeral Home or the teaser for The Gates of Hell. Now there was a video cassette available, chock full of every worth while horror pop-off you could dream of. An hour and a half of them, ready n’ aching to be dropped in yer top-loader. Other clip compilations and teaser vids co-existed at this time (Zombiethon, Terror on Tape), but everything was pale in comparison to my budding degenerate mind. Those others were edited together label-bests and brief scenes. These were actual theatrical trailers. The real artifact. Damaged celluloid and voice-overs intact. Mad Ron, shown chained to his projection booth, frothing from the mouth and brandishing a machete, hosts alongside a completely stupid (yet somewhat enduring) horror host/comic nerd named Nick …and his zombie puppet sidekick, Happy Goldsplatt. All try to satiate us fans with boobs-n-blood while the theater buckles under an attack by the film craving undead. Lame stabs at humor and shot-on-video spookshow wraparounds aside, the guts of this compilation pack quite a wallop. At a time when the film trailer was seen as just trash to jettison off at the end of features or a reason to show up late at a marquee showing, it was mind-boggling that these goons had such a staggering collection. At home. For a lot of folks back then, this was the only time you got to see the snippets of such fine filth as Deranged, I Drink Your Blood, Three on a Meathook, etc. Oh and yeah…those were just in the first ten minutes! It was like the gore-met grocery list of the what-to-find and gotta-have. Mad Dr. of Blood Island? One of the greatest things that could happen to my ninth grade mind. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things? I bought it the next day. Cannibal Girls? Still searching. Andy Milligan’s homespun atrocity, The Ghastly Ones? I spent 20 years trying to track that fucker down. Because. Of. This. Tape. Since the Nineties brought on a resurgence of cinematic slime, fellas like Mike Vraney over at Something Weird Video one-upped the ante with his collections (and with skywards of a hundred or so different volumes), and now DVDs are popping up all the time with even tastier selections as well (42nd Street Forever, Shock Festival). It’s like everyone in the know now has a mighty pile of chill and thrill worthy trailers. I’m sure I’m sitting pretty on thirty plus hours of the little beaten bastards myself. But for a lot of the hounds out there, this Mad Ron pile of puke was ground zero. Like the H.G. Lewis quote up above, it wasn’t the best…but it was the lift off pad for the scum to come. Hell, even one of the best comps available on the “grey market” was just an edited down-to-the-goods (sorry Happy and Nick) version of the Prevues From Hell tape, updated with bonuses to pad out the running time. Did the makers find out? Unsure. I do know it was tragically deleted from a certain label's catalog not long after it hit the streets. And that was moons ago. But now, dear friends, the time has arrived. This is available on DVD. Sure, its enclosed teasers have been seen on many legit and semi-legit releases over the years now, and there’s very little to offer of the “un-comped and obscure” variety…especially in this age of Tarantino fanboys and the YouTube savvy. But YOU still have to have that first Nuggets LP, right? Holding on to Pebbles Volume 1? Same sorta thing. Consider this the original BFTG, only replace Tim Warren’s snarky liner notes with a lisping dumbo corpse puppet. With enough Wild Turkey, they even might become one in the same. And what about the makers? Nick Pawlow: Hopefully not doing the Atlantic City comedy circuit. Surely he has come to terms with his flat jokes and laid Happy to rest. Mad Ron: probably still rolling around naked in his tattered filmstrip atrocities. I know I would. The guy who designed the gore and SOV zombie f/x? Well he was Jordu Schell…who happened to go on and make a career for himself out of slingin’ latex and resin (from Bride of Re-animator all the way up to Hellboy, and belched up computer cesspools like Avatar). So this is where the hunt began, for me and a lot of like-minded youths. If ya wanted to delve into the wonderful land of the lost, this was a damn good place to start. Ripe with two minute payoffs, title swipes and savage hucksterisms. You’ll never forget the day you hear “A guy went berserk down at the Bijou Theater...” routine from The Blood Splattered Bride/I Dismembered Mamma double bill. And you shouldn’t. It’s just THAT good. A lost art form, born out of carny ballyhoo. There’s a sucker born every minute, says P.T. Barnum…why not be a sucker too?
Now the BAD news. All initial reviews of the DVD’s transfer say it looks ass-worse than the original tape. I bought it and I gotta agree. It has a lot of distracting video strobe and light trails that bring it down quite a few notches on the must-have list for the holidays. Which is a shame, but really…again with my artifact schpeil…this oughta be on VHS. You can’t make those shot on video puppets look any better (but Troll 2 just hit the Blu-Ray disc world, so what the hell do I know…). The original tape still floats about in the collectors market and eBay sewers. Here’s the original VHS trailer for thee original VHS trailer tape. Yeah. Soooo good... Run to a nearby flea market and dig it out of the dollar box grave.
And here’s something for all you people who need lists ('cause I know yer out there). This is my top five (or so) trailer comp round up. These are the ones that I consider the best or at least merit some value and importance. Some may be a hassle to come by in this digital day and age. Others are probably streaming on Netflix for all you hi-tech junkies…just don’t ask me to figure it out. Happy hunting! 1. Cinema Wasteland/The Bride of Cinema Wasteland – VHS (Video Wasteland)
Here it is. The first Volume is the culprit I spoke of above. Cinema Wasteland, the once crazy Cleveland tape traders, have gone on to become genre expo-giants. But first they did horror film buffs a solid (unless you were Mad Ron) and released these gems. Their original tape was actually a beefed-up/edited-down to the bare bones variation of the Prevues From Hell tape. Those out there who can’t stomach bad gong show-style zombie ventriloquism might want to hunt this down. All the Mad Ron archive is represented (including the Wildcat Women in 3-D porno trailer that seems missing from the new disc. Go figure...) as well as another two dozen trailers. The makers continued with their “art” of borrowing for the second volume, The Bride Of Cinema Wasteland. Most of the reels that time out seemed culled from laser discs and Anchor Bay re-issue tapes, or I’d assume from the high quality and remastered feel of most. Still, ethics aside…it’s pretty sweet having all these in one handy package. Beat that with a stick. 2. Blood-O-Rama Shock Show – VHS (Something Weird)
You can always expect a few carry-overs from comp to comp, but the remainder of the oddities that spring forth from this tape claw and tear at yer throat with the best of 'em. Sadly, like most SWV horror trailer collections, this seems to have been be deleted from their catalog. What ya get if ya find it is 5O great gut busters, including a ton of Andy Milligan (big fan here) and classicks like Shriek of the Mutilated, Mansion Of The Doomed and Night of 1000 Cats. A serious gaggle of H.G. Lewis rarities are featured bumpin' up against Jean Rollin’s French vampire epics and Ilsa war atrocities. It even has J.M. McCarthy (director of The Sore Losers, Teenage Tupelo, etc) illustrated box art. Bad Ass-itude! Well worth the effort.
3. Shiver and Shudder Show / Super Horror-Rama Shriek Show! - VHS (Something Weird)
Sorry to hit you with more hard-to-find and outta print shit, but the goods don't get any gooder than these deleted SWV titles! And on top of that, I couldn’t choose just one. Shiver and Shudder Show offers up a lot of international frights and it's quite an impressive collection to behold. Mexi-wrastlin’ vampires vs. mummies, Italio sci-fi sleaze and rural American drive-in trash like The Giant Leeches and Feast Of Flesh come together under one clamshell. Super Horror-Rama starts things off with some Fifties b&w matinee fun, and treks its way through some mean spirited Seventies sicko-sexual romps, and even a few Blaxploiter titles as well. It all unspools in chronological order that grinds the decade to a halt with the Friday the 13th teaser. Thirty years of terror all in one compact tape case. Something Weird does still offer up many sexploitation collections (the Twisted Sex and Harry Novak Box Office Trailers volumes are all worthy and in abundance), so you might wanna take on a sleazy slice of those before they’re gone as well... 4. Shock Festival - DVD (Bloody Earth Films/Shock-o-Rama)
Here's an actual title you can get yer hands on! Shock Festival the DVD is based upon a “novel” written by screenwriter Stephen Romano. The book is a fictional mind-bender telling the false history of a group of exploitation film makers. Its chock full of mock interviews, phony poster art, and staged production stills for films. Learn of entire production teams, cast and crews…that never existed. Quite a feat really, and somehow it all ties together in a sordid tale of murder, mob and other Deuce related sleaze. What you get for Shock Festival the movie is a 2 DVD collection of trailers and an MP3 disc full of radio spots for films that do and don't exist. Seven impressive hours worth. To be honest, the fake film trailers in the mix are pretty bland and they ain't fooling anyone. The Grindhouse "intermission collection" available now (on Blu-Ray only) has no worries. BUT WHO CARES. You still get six plus hours of great exploitation to gawk at! Disc One consists mostly of action and sci-fi titles, but it ends with a quality selection of the Sam Sherman produced Independent International Pictures' grinders and horror schlock. I'm down for this, since his Al Adamson film trailers (Satan’s Sadists, Blood Of Ghastly Horror, etc.) were some of the best of their time. Disc Two serves up a steaming pile of Seventies/Eighties horror and gore followed by even more retardedness in the form of old television adverts. And let’s not forget that radio spots CD included as well. So exhaustive in size and scope that the good outweighs the bad tenfold. There are even a couple of commentary tracks for you to bop between, to help make this a learning experience as well.
5. 42nd Street Forever Vol. 5: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - DVD (Synapse Films)
And to wrap this up all tidy-like, I’m just gonna’ say the last few 42nd Street... discs have just gotten better and better. They’re still just as varied as ever, running the gamut of horror, comedy and the usual sexplo-blaxplo-slut-fu-a-go-go, but all the while intertwining them with drive-in adverts and fast food cheap sells. The trailers always look pristine (when compared to the red hued, gone-to-vinegar joints elsewhere on this list), if that’s the deal-sealer for you cinephiles out there. There’s been some great commentary tracks on the last couple outings (Tony Timpone of Fango on volume 4), but what really digs into me with this edition is the running dialog with the folks behind the Alamo Drafthouse theater programming. These guys know their shit well and obsess over it down in Austin. A goldmine of off color stories and sick laffs. It doesn’t hurt that I used to work with one of the monkeys involved (Zack Carlson)…or that he’s one of the powerhouses behind the recent punk on film book I’m shamelessly gonna’ start plugging any day/hour/minute now…
That’s it for the small parts. Not very small after all, eh? Just think if I could channel this into a paying gig. Per letter. Wow.
Off I go to work out the questions and queries for the DESTROY ALL MOVIES!!! folks. They’ll be chewing my earlobes to a paste during the next month. Rambling about real punks. About fake punks. And trailers. Cooked meat. Other crucial things. Stay tuned after this station break…-RSF (...cue the Empire Carpet advert....)
To read other installments of TV As Eyes please browse the archives here.
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